The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the right to privacy was a fundamental right protected under Article 21 of the Constitution, which upholds the right to life. The Constitution bench held that right to privacy is an “intrinsic part of life and personal liberty”, Bar and Bench reported. It was a unanimous decision by the nine-judge bench.
The bench comprised Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and justices DY Chandrachud, J Chelameswar, Rohinton Nariman, RK Agrawal, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, SA Bobde, S Abdul Nazeer and AM Sapre. There were six separate but concurring rulings, though the chief justice did not author a judgment in this case.
However, fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution are subject to reasonable restrictions. In this case, Article 21 guarantees that no individual can be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law.
The Supreme Court’s verdict is likely to determine whether Aadhaar can be made compulsory for access to government schemes. The question of whether Aadhaar violates this fundamental right is now likely to be taken up by a five-judge Constitution bench.
The top court had reserved its verdict in the case on August 3, after hearing arguments from all parties involved for six days across three weeks. A number of petitioners had argued that the Indian Constitution guarantees an individual’s right to privacy , under Article 21 on the right to life and Article 19 on the protection of certain basic rights.
The Centre had argued that citizens do not have an absolute right over their bodies, and that an array of laws and rules has already imposed limitations on this right. The Unique Identity Development Authority of India, which manages the biometrics for Aadhaar cards, had told the top court that it was “technically impossible” to use the data to spy on people who have enrolled in the unique identification programme.
Fundamental Right to Privacy
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